Anthony Claude Antonelli is a big hockey fan and player.
When he started his Ph.D. at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City in 2015, he thought it was strange there weren’t any hockey programs set up for scientists and doctors in Manhattan.
Since Weill Cornell Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Rockefeller University are all linked together, Antonelli sent out an email blast to see if anyone was interested in starting a team. He received an overwhelming response.
“I was really surprised by that,” Antonelli said. “I think people kind of think of academics as a bit more on the nerdy side and sit down, indoors all the time. But it turns out a lot of us played [hockey] our entire lives.”
ICE-OTOPES was formed and joined the adult hockey league playing outdoors in Lasker Park at Central Park.
The team is now playing in its second season and offers a great opportunity for classmates and future colleagues to meet, share their love for hockey and unwind one night a week.
“It’s a huge stress relief for sure,” Antonelli said. “For a lot of us, we stress our brains so much throughout the day. We work really long hours, and once a week on Sunday nights we get out there and you don’t have to have all that stuff — you kind of leave it on the bench and you get out there and push your body for once as hard as you can. That’s huge. That doesn’t mean that we all of a sudden lose our ability to think. I think for a lot of us that scientific mind actually is a benefit in hockey. We’re very calculating and understand the patterns and all that’s required to play a sport like ice hockey.”
Team member Steffanie Moak also loves the camaraderie aspect to the game.
“It’s a nice way to still be around these people that I love working with professionally then just taking a step back from work and spending time with them, doing something I personally love,” she said.
Moak, who is a Nova Scotia native, went to undergrad at Cornell and was a goalie on the Big Red women’s hockey team for four years. When Moak was a research assistant at Rockefeller University and saw Antonelli’s email about getting a team together, she quickly signed up.
“I’ve met a lot of people from other institutions just by being on the team and I see them around campus,” said Moak, who is now a VR program lead for a small startup company. “We get along super well and sometimes we go and like organize team events outside of the ice rink.”
ICE-OTOPES players have built a good rapport on and off the ice. It certainly helps they can relate to one another on a professional level. The team is a mix of M.D.s, Ph.D.s, graduate students, medical students, physician assistants, and people who work in oncology, immunology, cardiology and neuroscience.
“You start out and you’ve never seen these people and everybody works on such different things,” Antonelli said. “I know scientists have a reputation for maybe not being the most social creatures, but definitely a misnomer. I think everybody took to it real quick. There’s a lot of laughing in the locker room after. There’s a lot of talk about, ‘Oh man, that pass, that was beautiful.’”
The biggest obstacle with having a team comprised of scientists and physicians is they generally don’t have consistent work schedules. So, when Sunday night rolls around for a game, there are always a few players who are unavailable and filling out the lineup card can be tricky.
“It’s always a balance of who’s stuck in the lab and filling the bench,” Antonelli said.
The ICE-OTOPES roster, which ranges in age from 23 to 40, is an interesting dynamic with half the team made up of women. According to Antonelli, all the ladies are the star players on the team.
The team plays in the Division D1. A large number of the players grew up competing in the sport, but three or four laced up their skates for the first time ever at the start of last season.
The players love getting out once a week on the outdoor rink and competing in the sport the way it was intended.
“It feels much more genuine when you’re out there and you can really see your breath and the steam coming off your body,” said Antonelli, who is 32 years old.
Both Antonelli and Moak take a moment every once in a while to soak up the feeling of being able to play hockey at Central Park.
“It’s super cool,” said the 23-year-old Moak. “We start in the fall, so we see the trees changing colors. Then once the snow moves in, it’s really cool to be outside and having the weather come out onto the ice. It’s really beautiful, and Central Park north is super pretty by a reservoir.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc
Tag(s): Adult Hockey